Restaurant Review: Tinto

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Restaurant Review: Tinto

Serves Up Tapas Worth Sharing

What do Lily Tomlin, a contemporary country song, and an old bar in Madrid have in common? All of them speak to the importance of spending time together. Let me explain. I’ve been riding 2012 in fifth gear pinned. Consumed by work, I feel like I didn’t see my husband and son for the first two months of this year, even though I was in the next room. Some good figurative slaps to the face later, however, I realize Lily Tomlin was right when she said “the trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”

Fortunately, I’ve made some strides toward lightening my workload and spending time with my family. As if for reassurance the other day, my car radio introduced me to the country song, “Time is Love,” by Josh Turner; and that same night I found myself at the new Tinto Restaurant at The Saguaro in Palm Springs, a place pleasantly reminiscent of a bar I once knew in Madrid.

Las Cuevas de Sesamo is a turn-of-the-twentieth-century Spanish bar on the outskirts of downtown Madrid that is all about the appreciation of great company and conversation. The name of the place means “The Caves of Sesame,” and “the cave” part in its title is quite literal. To get there, you enter through a door on the main street level and walk down a steep stairway to the domed, underground interior. The cavernous quality is less gloom and more inspiring of intimacy and closeness, not unlike that of Tinto Restaurant. At Tinto, black-and-white-mosaic-tiled tables are set very near one another so that you’re only an elbow’s distance away from your neighbor. The steampunk light fixtures offer a soft, cavernous glow and enhance the feeling of the close embrace of the dining room, while partitions made of square and bare latticed wood create open, airy channels that contribute to the sense of interconnectedness of Tinto’s dining room and bar.

 

Tinto’s tapas-style dining is a great way to experience a myriad of Tinto’s deliciously prepared Basque-style culinary delights. Plus, no one goes at any one plate alone since every dish is meant to be shared by the entire table. That means that less adventurous eaters, like my husband, might be more inclined to try specialties like Pulpo, Tinto’s poached Spanish octopus. I’ve been enamored with eating octopus ever since trying another Spanish-style dish in which the octopus is served in a sauce made of its own ink. So, at my excited urging, we ordered Tinto’s Pulpo, served in spicy tomato and green olive escabeche. After some hesitation and encouragement, and thanks to the unique way Tinto prepares it, my husband eats octopus now, too.

Tinto slices its octopus on the bias, or against the grain, so there’s none of the chewiness you might expect, just tender pieces of meat with a mildly savory flavor served on an enticing wafer of fried potato. For me, part of the success of this dish comes from its flavor and appearance, while the other part comes from the adventure of experiencing something out of the ordinary with my husband.

Aside from the adventure, Tinto’s tapas are seriously better than any tapas I’ve ever had, including those in Spain. The Pan de Mallorca had just the right amount of buttery texture for bread, complemented by the playful crunch of sea salt that tops the accompanying smoked tomato goat milk butter. The marinated mantequilla olives and dry red Tinto Sangria were great precursors to a beautiful setup of lamb skewers wrapped in bacon and served in shot glasses of luxurious sweet onion crème and sherry lamb jus, and two large whole prawns, each skewered alongside a grape tomato and Spanish chorizo. For dessert, there’s no debating – the success of the Buñuelos – round, golden brown, fried dough balls dusted in orange sugar and served with a little cup of spiced honey for dipping alongside a date-olive oil ice cream. Enjoyed with a smooth cup of coffee from Chef Jose Garces’ own Garces Trading Company, I died and went to food heaven.

Although the bill can add up, you get what you pay for, and what you pay for is well worth it. Time is love, and so is food. Whoever you choose to share them with, make sure to spend some time together at Tinto Restaurant, where the atmosphere is charged with the enjoyment of great food, conversation, and each other.

If You Go – Tinto Restaurant @ The Saguaro, 1800 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs.  760.322.1900

Have you shared any unforgettable meals with friends and family in 2012, yet? Sarah Romero wants to know. Send her a message at  http://twitter.com/iheartdates

(as originally published in The Bottom Line Magazine and at http://psbottomline.com/community/on-your-plate/tinto-serves-up-tapas on March 8, 2012 in Volume 31 Issue 14)

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